Hindsight 2020: Year of the Black Swan

In business, a Black Swan is an “unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. Black swan events are characterized by their extreme rarity, severe impact, and the widespread insistence they were obvious in hindsight.” Investopedia

It is my opinion that the pandemic we are experiencing is such an event. Last year was tumultuous and wrought with uncertainty, and although I wish January 1st would trip a proverbial “reset” of all that has been 2020, I believe we are in for more unpredictability as we continue to traverse the ripple effect Covid-19 has had in all areas of our lives. So many have faced great adversity through illness, death, financial turmoil, and the mental and emotional complexities of quarantine. 

As business owners, we feel the weight of responsibility toward those we employ and those we serve. If this year taught us anything, it is how little control we truly possess. The only thing we can do is reflect, grow, and move forward.


an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences

This year I found relevant wisdom in the book Great By Choice by Jim Collins (Collins, Jim. Great by Choice. London, Random House Business, 2011). There are a lot of takeaways from this read, but three great truths hit home in these uncertain times. In a nutshell, Collins studied companies over a 15 year period that he deemed “10xers“, or companies that consistently outperform others in their industry index by at least ten times in both good and bad economic environments. Collins found that 10xers share 3 common key behaviors:


  1. FANATIC DISCIPLINE – the ability to have laser focus on one goal, and to break it down into a daily routine. T7 Takeaway: Practice consistency and self-imposed constraints in both good and bad times.
  2. EMPIRICAL CREATIVITY – the ability to empirically validate your creative instincts. This means using direct observation, conducting practical experiments, and engaging directly with evidence, rather than relying on opinion, whim, and analysis alone. T7 Takeaway: Test and quantify risks: Fire bullets first, then cannonballs.
  3. PRODUCTIVE PARANOIA  -Fear that is channeled into calm clear-headed action and extensive preparation.  T7 Takeaway: Build better cash reserves.


The combination of these key behaviors has proven an integral part of a corporation’s success even when difficult times arise.  It would be impossible to fully develop these principles in this editorial, but they have been thought-provoking as we evaluate our business plan and the actions that get us where we want to go in this uncharted time in history. Like it or not, 2020 pushed us in ways we have never been pushed before, and we feel we have “moved the needle” as an organization in a positive way despite the difficulties…no, because of them. We hope to see the end of the pandemic soon, but if not, we know the continued lessons learned will better prepare us to prevail when the black swans of this life come our way.